C’s Chat – Brandon Polizzi (The Sequel)

Vancouver Canadians Brandon Polizzi

Brandon Polizzi gets to wear his favourite number 4 in 2018 after wearing 37 and 2 last season.


The latest guest on C’s Chat is returning Vancouver Canadians outfielder Brandon Polizzi. The 22 year-old from Bellflower, California took time out to participate in his second C’s Chat during the team’s Media Day at Nat Bailey Stadium. You can find his first chat right here.

The right-handed hitting product of Cal-State Dominguez Hills was a key contributor in the post-season for the C’s. He came off the bench to pinch-run for Norberto Obeso in Game 1 of the North Division in the top of the eighth inning in a scoreless game and wound up scoring on a two-run home run by Logan Warmoth.

Polizzi remained in the game as he took over in left field and made a big diving catch in the ninth inning on a line drive by Cristian Inoa with the potential tying run second. That catch helped preserve a 2-1 victory but he was not ready to call it his best work with the leather.

“That’s definitely like in the top 10 but that’s my goal on the outfield, I steal hits from guys. If I don’t hit, you don’t hit – that’s always my philosophy. I’m always looking to take hits away from guys and make a big play here and there.”

Polizzi got the start in Game 2 of the North Division final and collected a hit, a single and two stolen bases as the C’s downed Spokane again by a 2-1 score. The 5-foot-10 right-handed hitter was happy to get the chance to play that night.

“Just getting an opportunity to be here is just a big opportunity. Just to be a part of this team, it’s awesome. Stealing two bases, that’s my game. Put the ball on the ground, put the ball in the gaps, make a single turn into a double, a double into a triple, first to third, first to home. My speed is my biggest part of my game so stealing those two bases and being able to hoist that trophy at the end meant a lot.”

brandon_polizzi_rally_skunk

Brandon Polizzi teamed up with the infamous rally skunk during the Northwest League final.


2017 Northwest League Championship

Polizzi says had a lot of fond memories during that playoff run that saw the C’s dethrone the previous league champion Eugene Emeralds.

“A lot of emotions, I could say that. It was very emotional winning the second championship for me. It was just emotional. It was an emotional ride especially with the group of guys we had. Great team chemistry, great guys. We hung out off the field together. We just bonded. I can’t say enough about that team last year.”

In three of the four games of the Northwest League final, Polizzi was called on as a defensive replacement in left field for Obeso. Before that, he donned the infamous rally skunk hat during Game 3 at Nat Bailey Stadium. For Polizzi, it was a case of trying to be a good teammate.

“I try to bring as much good energy and hopefully my teammates feed off that energy. The skunk was actually got by Matty Mo (Matt Morgan). The story was he got sprayed by the skunk (in Tri-City). He was playing (Game 3 of the finals) and somebody was like, ‘Somebody’s got to wear the skunk!’ So somehow it ended up in my lap and I was like, ‘Alright, you know! Why not?’ Since then, I think we were down (a run) I believe in the third game. They gave me the skunk. Somehow we came out, getting (some) runs so it was pretty cool.”

Polizzi was more than thrilled to get his championship ring during spring training from Canadians team president Andy Dunn and assistant general manager Allan Bailey.

“Ah man. Just seeing Andy and Allan coming down to spring training this year was an absolute blast. Seeing the ring, it was absolutely gorgeous. You know, I gave that to my parents actually. That’s the second ring I gave my parents so that’s something from them to say thank you and thank you for letting me live my dream.”

The first ring Polizzi won came with the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters of the collegiate Northwoods League in 2016.

Fall Instructional League & The Off-Season

After the season in Vancouver, Polizzi headed down to Dunedin for instructs and felt he really benefited from the experience.

“Instructs was definitely a learning point for me. Some of the adjustments I didn’t make here I made down in instructs. It was pretty cool. I get to see a lot of guys from different levels pitching. Some guys, like rehab guys and all that stuff. It just prepares you for coming in for next season and what it’s actually going to be like. It also prepares you for a long season and for a full-season team so that was actually really good to go to.”

Getting better with the bat was Polizzi’s main focus heading into this season.

“Just getting bigger, stronger, faster. Working on my bat. Glove-wise, arm-wise, I’m not really worried about. Normally my defence is my best thing out there. Normally just my bat. Hitting the ball is the hardest thing to do in baseball so I definitely try to make adjustments to my game.”

Playing in Lansing

After beginning 2018 in extended spring training, Polizzi was promoted to the Lansing Lugnuts May 16. He played in 11 games before a stint on the 7-day disabled list. Even though he had just three hits in 27 at-bats, Polizzi felt getting a taste of the Midwest League provided a good learning experience.

“It was actually really cool. I got to experience some failure actually. Going there, seeing some really good pitching. Guys throwing 98, 99, a couple of guys throw 102. I got to experience some failure. It actually got me prepared for this season. Just little adjustments I can make with the bat. Little things I didn’t think about I learned up in Lansing so it was actually a really good learning experience.”

Major League Connections

Before heading to Cal-State Dominguez Hills, Polizzi played baseball at Bellflower High School. That was the same school former Blue Jay Anthony Gose attended.

“Me, Anthony and his little brother Andrew, we used to be really close. Just high school, after that we part ways but we actually grew up together. Me, Anthony, Andrew and his sister Tiara. Good family, absolutely love them. Just high school, we part ways and that was that.”

Polizzi had previously connected with fellow Cal-State Dominguez Hills Toro and 2011 Vancouver Canadian Kevin Pillar but he found another Blue Jay to connect with this spring.

“Actually, me and Troy Tulowitzki have been in contact. Me and him had been working out and hitting together. Really good guy. You want to talk about a student of the game, that guy is intense and I love that so just getting to talk to him and learn from him was pretty cool.”

2018 Season

Polizzi says he is confident the 2018 C’s will have a good year.

“I expect a lot of big things out of us. We’re going to a be a team that, you know, we’re going to have to put the ball in play pretty well. We’re not going to be a home run hitting team like we were last year with Kacy (Clemens), David Jacob and guys like those. We’re going to have to get the job done doing small ball and doing the small things right. I expect a lot of big things out of my teammates and I hope they expect a lot of big things out of me.”

My thanks again to Brandon Polizzi for participating in a second round of C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @thisdudebp.

To learn more about Polizzi, check out this interview from Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Dante De Caria @Diamond_Dante.

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C’s Recap – Manager Dallas McPherson Speaks To The Media & The 2018 Roster Is Unveiled

Vancouver Canadians manager Dallas McPherson

Vancouver Canadians manager Dallas McPherson comes to the Toronto Blue Jays organization after playing part of five seasons in the majors.


C's RecapVancouver Canadians manager Dallas McPherson spoke to the assembled media during the team’s annual Media Day at Nat Bailey Stadium.

The former Anaheim Angels, Florida Marlins and Chicago White Sox third baseman outlined what the 2018 C’s need to do to be successful.

“Definitely with the group that we have, small ball and being able to execute and situational hitting is going to be key for us.”

McPherson says maintaining a cohesive unit with the amount of roster turnover that takes place during the season is one obstacle that has to be dealt with.

“It’s always a challenge. I think the biggest challenge is being able to keep the team chemistry where you want it in the group together. The players jelling together, in and out,  the locker room chemistry, I think, is always going to be the biggest challenge with that.

Obviously on the field, being able to figure out who can do what in our short time together. That is always going to be a big challenge.”

Vancouver Canadians Randy Pondler, Mc Gregory Contreras

Randy Pondler (left) is expected to be the C’s Opening Day starter in 2018. Outfielder McGregory Contreras is on the right.


The probable starter for Opening Day in Eugene June 15 is expected to be Randy Pondler.

“I think it’s Pondler. Strike thrower, professional, knows how to pitch. Keeps guys off balance. Puts fly balls in play and let our defence work for us.”

McPherson believes the C’s will have to do the little things to be successful this season.

“I think we’re a team that, you know, we’re not going to overpower people with a lot of power. We got some guys from the draft that’s got some but offensively, we’re going to have to execute and play a little bit of small ball. We’re going to run the bases really well and aggressive. I think we’re like most good teams, we’re going to have to rely on our pitching and good defence.”

McPherson was asked if he was familiar with any of the ballparks in the Northwest League.

“Not at all. I played in the Pioneer League when I was coming through so a lot of this is going to be new for me. I know on the road, we got a lot of turf fields and things change a little bit with the speed of the game there. We’re all just kind of getting our feet wet a little bit in this first half and then make some adjustments as we go.”

The huge crowds at Nat Bailey Stadium are something McPherson believes will be a great benefit to this players.

“It’s going to be huge. I mean, the great thing about an atmosphere like that, you don’t have to do a lot to get them ready to play. That’s going to motivate them in and of itself. Such a special thing playing in this type of environment, especially at such a lower level and a young age for these guys. It’s going to be huge for them.”

McPherson talked about why he decided to join the Toronto Blue Jays.

“A lot of it was just the organization as a whole and what they were trying to do with player development and the direction they were going. Team chemistry and win-first mentality a little bit. I think that (were) probably the biggest things.”

The return of Jim Czajkowski as pitching and the addition of hitting coach Aaron Matthews will create a good dynamic among the coaching staff according to McPherson.

“It’s great. It’s going to be great. We’re all dealing really well together. I love having Cy. You know the experience there is going to be huge for us all and Aaron being similar ages, very similar kind of mindset and thought process on the offensive side of the ball. It’s just going to play well for us.”

McPherson was asked about how he will manage the transition from player to manager.

“Obviously I don’t know yet to be honest with you. (Laughs). We’re going to have to play it a little bit (by ear). I think it’s going to be obviously a huge step just learning the day-to-day operations and the management side of things behind the scenes.

I think on the field, you know, baseball is baseball. Whether you’re playing it or managing it, it’s obviously different roles but the game’s still the game, you know. Being able to go out and execute and do the things we want to do, that’s all going to take care of itself.”

McPherson likes the composition of this year’s roster that features some returnees to lead the newcomers.

“Luckily we’ve been together here for a while down in extended so we’ve gotten to know each other a good bit and who can do what. They’re comfortable together with me as well. Yeah, we’ve got some guys that are returning. Some guys that (weren’t) here last year. I think it’s a good mix of guys and a good mix of speed, a good mix of power, a good mix of defence and offence. I think it’s all going to go well.”

As defending champs, McPherson says the C’s will be hunted instead of the hunter in the Northwest League.

“Yeah, you know we’ve told these guys a lot about that. I mean, it’s great to win. It’s great to win championships but when you do, you got a target on your back a little bit. I think not only Eugene but the rest of the league is going to be out for us and we’ve talked to these guys about being ready to go from pitch one.”

Getting the team on the same page was a big goal of McPherson’s during extended spring training.

“I think, number one, you’re trying to get the team chemistry where you want it and trying to get the comfort level with both the staff and the players as well but also just trying implement our system and find out who can do what and how we can build and manage to the personnel.”

McPherson will make his managerial debut this Friday when the C’s visit the Eugene Emeralds for a five-game series. All games start at 7:05 pm except for Sunday with the first pitch set for 5:05 pm. All games can be heard on CanadiansBaseball.com with Rob Fai and Friday’s opener will also be carried on TSN 1040 Radio in Vancouver. The games are also on MiLB.com TV.

2018 Vancouver Canadians Roster

Coaching Staff

#23. Dallas McPherson – manager

#48. Jim Czajkowski – pitching coach

#11. Aaron Matthews – hitting coach

#12. Jose Mayorga – position coach

dalton_rodriguez_jose_espada_media_day

Dalton Rodriguez (left) and Jose Espada are among five returnees to the C’s pitching staff in 2018.

Pitchers

#14. Jose Espada

#15. Jordan Barrett

#18. Orlando Pascual

#20. Josh Winckowski

#22. Denis Diaz

#25. Justin Watts

#29. Marcus Reyes

#34. Dalton Rodriguez

#37. Juan Nunez

#41. Connor Law

#43. Elio Silva

#44. Randy Pondler

tanner_kirwer_owen_spiwak

There are two Canadian Canadians on the 2018 roster in outfielder Tanner Kirwer (Sherwood Park, Alberta – pictured left) and catcher Owen Spiwak (Mississauga, Ontario).


Catchers

#9. Owen Spiwak

#26. Reilly Johnson

Infielders

#2. Sterling Guzman

#17. Jesus Navarro

#21. Bryan Lizardo

Outfielders

#4. Brandon Polizzi

#5. Freddy Rodriguez

#19. Tanner Kirwer

#28. McGregory Contreras

The eight returnees from the 2017 roster are Espada, Pascual, Reyes, Nunez and Rodriguez on the pitching side and Spiwak, Lizardo and Polizzi on the position player side. 2016 C’s pitcher Denis Diaz is also on the 2018 roster.

C-Notes

C's Notes

Please tune in to TSN 1040 for Vancouver Canadians Game Day every Thursday night from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Hosted by Rob Fai, the show is in its 10th season and has undergone a new format with a roundtable featuring season one co-host Lou Filippo, author K.P. Wee and myself. We talk about the Toronto Blue Jays, the Seattle Mariners and all things baseball in an action-packed two hours. Just click here to listen to all the shows or click on the Booster Juice logo located near the top right-hand corner of this very blog.


Congratulations to the Lansing Lugnuts for clinching a Midwest League playoff spot. 14 pitchers and 12 position players with C’s ties all played a role in helping the Lugnuts nail down a first-half Eastern Division playoff berth. 2017 C’s righthander Colton Laws got the win with five shutout innings. Samad Taylor was 3-for-4 with two RBI while Norberto Obeso and Yeltsin Gudino drove in the other runs in a 4-2 victory over the host Fort Wayne TinCaps.

And for icing on the cake, Lugnuts home games and the All-Star game at Cooley Law School Stadium will be shown on MiLB TV.

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C’s Alumni Update – Adams, Bergen, Perdomo, Vicuna & Young Are A-Level All-Stars

Vancouver Canadians Riley Adams

Catcher Riley Adams is a 2018 Florida State League All-Star after being a Northwest League All-Star in 2017.


cs_alumni_update_new_logoFour members of the 2017 Vancouver Canadians and one from the 2015 C’s will be playing in All-Star Games later this month.

2017 C’s outfielder Chavez Young and 2017 shortstop Kevin Vicuna will be among four players representing the Lansing Lugnuts at the Midwest League All-Star Game that will be played in Lansing June 19.

The Florida State League All-Star game will feature two members of the 2017 Northwest League champions in catcher Riley Adams and lefthanded reliever Travis Bergen. They will be joined by 2015 C’s lefty Angel Perdomo in Tampa June 16 to represent the Dunedin Blue Jays.

Vancouver Canadians Deiferson Barreto

2016-2017 C’s infielder Deiferson Barreto will assume a coaching role in the 2018 Florida State League All-Star Game.


2016-2017 C’s infielder Deiferson Barreto will be on the Florida State League North Division All-Star coaching staff while 2011-2017 C’s hitting coach and 2018 Lansing position coach Dave Pano will be part of the coaching roster of the Midwest League East Division squad.

Vancouver Canadians Chavez Young

Chavez Young has racked up 24 extra-base hits and 17 stolen bases with Lansing in 2018.


Young is off to a tremendous start in his first full-season of pro ball. The 20 year-old switch-hitter from Freeport, Bahamas is slashing .329/.388/.458 with Lansing thanks to 19 multi-hit efforts that includes a half-dozen three-hit games. In the outfield, he has racked up 10 assists while splitting time in center and right field and has committed just two errors.

Vancouver Canadians Kevin Vicuna

Kevin Vicuna has 15 hits for extra-bases and 25 runs batted in for Lansing in 2018.


The 20 year-old Vicuna is batting .285/.323/.374 with Lansing and has swiped seven bases. The Venezuelan has compiled 22 multi-hit games with four three-hit games and one four-hit effort. In addition to shortstop, Vicuna has seen time at second base and third base. He collected the first professional home run of his four-year career back on May 11.

Adams has made strides at and behind the plate from the beginning of the year. After hitting just .194 in April, the 21 year-old righthanded hitter out of the University of San Diego has bumped his batting average to .230. Adams has also thrown out 36 percent of opposing runners trying to steal and has committed just four passed balls in 42 games.

Vancovuer Canadians Travis Bergen

Travis Bergen‘s strong start to the 2018 season earned him a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire.


Bergen will not be pitching at the Florida State League All-Star as he is currently pitching in New Hampshire. The 24 year-old from McDonough, Georgia has three scoreless appearances under his belt covering 5-1/3 innings since joining the Fisher Cats. That comes after Bergen struck out 31 batters in 21 innings with Dunedin. He also collected a save to go along with a 1.71 earned run average.

angel_perdomo

2016 Futures Games participant Angel Perdomo is a 2018 Florida State League All-Star.


Angel Perdomo has made the adjustment to pitching in the Florida State League the second time around. After an unsightly WHIP of 1.55 in 2017, that number is down to a much more manageable 1.09 with Dunedin in 2018. The 24 year-old from San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic has whiffed 48 batters over 43 innings to go along with an ERA of 3.14.

Congratulations to all the former C’s taking part in the Florida State and Midwest League All-Star Games.

francisco_gracesqui_warmup

Francisco Gracesqui gave up just one unearned run over 14 innings and posted a 2-0 record with one save for the 2014 Vancouver Canadians.


C-Notes

A number of former Vancouver Canadians are on the 2018 rosters of independent league teams as they look to make it back to affiliated ball. The years they were in Vancouver and their 2018 stats are listed in parentheses.

American Association

Francisco Gracesqui (2014) – Kansas City T-Bones (1.68 ERA, 2 SV)
Jackson Lowery (2016) – Kansas City T-Bones (2.07 ERA)

Can-Am League

David Rollins (2011) – Sussex County Miners (1.54 ERA)
David Harris (2013, 2014) – NJ Jackals (.315 BA)
Arik Sikula (2012) – Quebec Capitales (2.55 ERA)

Northern League

Shane Dawson (2013) – Winnipeg Goldeyes (3-0, 3.35 ERA)
Kevin Garcia (2015) – Winnipeg Goldeyes (.388 BA, 10 RBI)

Frontier League

Chris Hall (2017) – Schaumberg Boomers (2-0, 0.68 ERA)
Sean Hurley (2014-2015) – Lake Erie Crushers (.247 BA, 3HR)
Geno Encina (2016) – Southern Illinois Miners (1-2, 5.04 ERA)

Vancouver Canadians David Harris

David Harris was a member of the 2013 Northwest League champion Vancouver Canadians.


Continuing on the topic of the independent leagues, David Harris had to join a bench-clearing brawl that involved former Blue Jay Mat Latos. The brawl began when Latos threw inside twice to a batter on the Rockland Hounds.  Harris—wearing number 7—sprinted in from center field to play peacemaker in the brawl. According to this account, the brawl was apparently the result of Jackals catcher Kevin Torres being run over by the Hounds Marcus Nidiffer at home plate and the run was allowed to stand. That was when Latos decided to take matters into his own hands.

Vancouver Canadians Miguel Castro

2014 Vancouver Canadians pitcher and current Baltimore Oriole Miguel Castro pitched twice against the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend.


The four-game series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles featured a pair of 2014 C’s relievers opposing each other. Miguel Castro got an inning-ending double play ball in the ninth inning to send the series opening game to extra innings but gave up the winning run in the 10th on an Aledmys Diaz single. Castro would redeem himself with two shutout innings two days later but the Jays would prevail again in extra innings. Castro is 1-2 with a 2.84 ERA with Baltimore so far in 2018.

Tim Mayza saw action in the series finale as he spun two shutout frames of one-hit, one hit-by-pitch ball to finish up the Jays 13-3 destruction of the O’s Sunday afternoon. The lefthander is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA over 10 innings with Toronto this season. Mayza has gone back down to Buffalo.

Vancouver Canadians Tim Mayza

Tim Mayza finished off the Orioles with two shutout innings during the Blue Jays four-game sweep Sunday.


 

C-Tweets

cs-tweetThe latest round of C-Tweets feature interviews, video highlights and observations from former C’s players and various media outlets. Some of the tweets are about the recent 2018 draft and also look at the strong performances being turned in on the Blue Jays farm in Lansing, Dunedin, New Hampshire and Buffalo. These tweets cover the latter part of May and the first part of June.

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C’s Chat – Riley Adams

Vancouver Canadians Riley Adams

Riley Adams batted .305 with 20 extra-base hits and 35 runs batted in for the C’s in 2017.


2017 Vancouver Canadians catcher and 2018 Dunedin Blue Jay Riley Adams gets behind the plate in the latest edition of C’s Chat.

The 2017 third-round pick out of the University of San Diego was the C’s MVP of 2017 as he helped the club win its fourth Northwest League championship in seven years. The 21  year-old right-handed hitter from Encinitas, California shared his memories of the C’s playoff drive that began with the forest fire in Spokane that forced all of the best-of-three   North Division final games to be played at Nat Bailey Stadium.

“The fires definitely were a little different wrinkle that got thrown into that but it kind of worked out in our favour, that’s for sure, because we got to go back home and play that game even though we were the visiting team but at least we were playing at home.

I think in that league with all the different places, I think we definitely have the best home field advantage with all the fans that we got and how loud that places gets and they’re supportive of us and everything like that.

Yeah, getting an extra game in at home was huge and I think that definitely helped us. We obviously had some really good pitching performances throughout the whole post-season but definitely throughout that whole Spokane series.

We knew the fires were going on and it wasn’t like super close to us. We knew we had like no issues with the fires and us but you could definitely walk outside and it smelled pretty smoky. It definitely would not have been ideal to actually play in that weather.”

After winning Game 1, Adams put the C’s on the board with a two-out RBI single in Game 2.

“I think that whole post season, it was just different guys stepping up every single day. Every single game, it didn’t matter who it was. We always knew someone was going to get a timely hit in the right spot. I just happened to come up in that game with a runner on second and two outs and I got to find a way to get that guy in, especially in the post-season with how low scoring it was for us. We knew we had good pitching and so all we knew was we needed to get two runs across and then we were golden. Just being able to get up in that situation and help out, it was a lot of fun.”

Adams felt it was important to put Spokane on its heels early.

“Yeah, definitely. You know the post-season when it comes around and every game is a little bit more important and every pitch and every at-bat is a little bit more important. You got to make the most of those situations when you get the chance.”

Vancouver Canadians Riley Adams

Riley Adams hit .346 with runners in scoring position with the C’s in 2017.

2017 Northwest League Finals

The C’s began the series with the first two games at P.K. Park in Eugene. They overcame a 4-2 deficit to take Game 1 against the Emeralds. Adams felt the game simply was the continuation of a season-long trend.

“We had really good timely hitting throughout it all and a lot of trust in everyone on our team. It didn’t matter who it was, we were going to get the job done. I remember Chavez (Young) hit a really big home run that day that helped us out a bunch. It was a good comeback win. The pitching was a little bit shaky at first but we definitely had some good performances towards the end of the game.”

Adams was also happy to contribute a RBI single to give the C’s an insurance run.

“Oh absolutely. Any extra run you can get in that situation. You love those situations.”

After taking one of two games in Eugene and winning Game 3 in Vancouver, the C’s were one win away from the Northwest League. Adams gave way to Matt Morgan in Game 3 before being back behind the dish in Game 4. He and starter Justin Dillon found themselves dealing with a one-out, bases-loaded situation before a timely visit from pitching coach Jim Czajkowski.

“I think sometimes, you know, the first inning some nerves can get to you when you think about the situation and kind of overthink it and let it get to your head. I think by Cy just coming out talking to us and just kind of calm us down. We knew that Justin Dillon has all the stuff and he’s totally fine. It was just to go out there and reassure him that everything was alright and we’re going to get the job done. He obviously pitched really well. (Zach) Logue came in after and pitched just as well.”

We had some really good pitchers all throughout. It’s good to see them doing really well this year. It’s always fun when I know those guys are on the bump.”

Once Logan Warmoth put the Canadians ahead with a two-run single in the fifth, Adams was confident they would win the clinching Game 4.

“That was pretty much the story of the post-season. I remember after Logan got that run in, I just looked at our pitching coach (Jim Czajkowski) and I told him, ‘That’s all we need.’ We had a pretty good, solid bullpen that we knew was going to get the job done. We knew we didn’t need much but we had a really good pitching staff the whole year. As long as we had the lead, that’s all that mattered to us.”

Vancouver Canadians Riley Adams

Riley Adams started five of the six playoff games behind the plate for Vancouver in 2017.


After working with Dillon and Logue, Brayden Bouchey continued his second-half surge with two key shutout innings. Adams said the White Rock, BC native and Northwest League All-Stars relievers Orlando Pascual and William Ouellette were a terrific trio coming out of the bullpen.

“I remember early on in the summer, he was struggling a little bit and kind of leaving stuff up. I thought towards the end of the year, especially as we got into the post-season, his stuff was really good. He was a really reliable guy for us out of the pen later on in the year. He’s a taller, skinnier guy. He gets that downhill tilt with the fastball. It plays really well and it’s tough to hit. He obviously pairs that with his curveball that gets a lot of swing and misses.

He was really good for us but then we also had the two All-Stars in Pascual and Ouellette that we had relied on the whole year. I think we were pretty satisfied with where we were at with our bullpen. Whichever guy we threw out there was going to get the job done.”

Adams was confident that Pascual and Ouellette could get the final three outs to close it out.

“I think Pascual could have very easily finished the game out. Pascual relies on his fastball and his go-to offspeed is his changeup. I think just with that last batter, they brought in a pinch-hitter who has been hitting really well late for them. We wanted to go with Ouellette who’s more of a fastball-slider kind of guy living away. It was a judgment call by our coach. Honestly, I think either one of them would have been fine. I was happy with either one.”

Adams breaks down the final at-bat in which Ouellette faced Emeralds pinch-hitter Will Remillard.

“Ultimately, I knew we wanted to get him out with the slider. That was Will’s pitch the whole year. He spots up really well with his fastball outer-half. I think we just wanted to start him ahead with that fastball. I think we got 0-2 right away. He threw a slider that he threw in the dirt buried. It wasn’t the most hittable pitch so he didn’t swing at all.

We backed it up and I think he hung that slider a little bit more than we would have liked but it kind of froze the hitter. All I remember is just running straight out to the mound before the umpire could even call strike three. It was a pretty cool moment.

In the three short months or two-and-a-half short months that I was out there with this team and meeting all these new guys, I think we were really grew close together. I made some really good friendships and we really grew as a team. It was just a really cool moment to be with all those guys that we had just met. Just to be with that group and I think it was just a really good celebration.”

Adams says he did not keep the game ball from the final out.

“Every single time I get the last out, I always give it to the closer so I think Will has it.”

MVP Honours

Adams was named the team MVP and captured the Arnie Hallgren Offensive Player of the Year award. He appreciated the recognition.

“It’s just a really cool honour especially in my first pro stint out there. Just to be recognized by my coaches but we had a lot of really good players on that team. It was just pretty easy to come to the ballpark, especially getting used to all these new pitchers and learning to call games and doing stuff like that. Having the arms that we did, it made it a lot easier. We just had a really good group of guys that make getting to the ballpark fun.”

Leadership skills

C’s manager Rich Miller and Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim were among those who praised Adams for his leadership skills in Vancouver last season. Adams believes that leadership is something that comes with the territory as a catcher.

“I think as a catcher, you’re kind of always looked upon. Everyone’s looking towards you every single pitch because they have to look at the hitter. I think it’s just kind of something that you have to do in order to be a catcher – to show some leadership. You’re working on that relationship with the pitchers and trying to build your trust in them and get to know them as best you can, both on and off the field. It’s just kind of a daily thing that you have to try to maintain and keep building all those relationships with your teammates.”

Vancouver Canadians Riley Adams

Riley Adams had a .991 fielding percentage by committing just two errors in 34 starts behind the plate in 2017.

Catching Development

After the season, Adams headed back to Dunedin for the fall instructional league to continue to work on the finer details of catching.

“I think just keeping on my craft and get better on all the little things. The Blue Jays preach ‘Get better everyday’ so I just try to get a little bit better everyday. It was a good four weeks to get after it, get a few more things in before the off-season and just kind of work on some defensive stuff with my receiving and blocking. And hitting, continuing to just get better with my swing and my approach and everything like that.”

Adams says his most favourite aspect of catching is trying to outwit the opposing batters.

“I think the biggest part is the mental side of it and learn to call a game. The little chess matches you play throughout a game definitely keeps yourself thinking and keeps yourself going. I think that’s probably the most fun part. It’s also the newest part for me because in college, you don’t get to call games – it’s all by the coaches. Out here they give you the freedom to call your own games and work through that. I think that’s probably my favourite part about it is controlling that part of the game.”

One skill that Adams showed off in Vancouver was his ability to cut down opposing basestealers as he nailed 40 percent of those who tried to steal against him. Adams says he takes pride in that part of the game.

“I think I’ve been gifted with a pretty good arm and have tried to remain as athletic as possible. I think when I started catching, that was probably the thing that I picked up the quickest on. The receiving and blocking side needed more work so I think I’ve always been able to work on that but there’s still a lot more to learn to get better at and fine-tune with the throwing.”

Adams feels he is making steady progress as a catcher.

“I think the catching side has definitely gotten a lot better since becoming a Blue Jay and everything. Just getting back there, especially learning to call pitches. That’s one of the newest things for me and I’ve been working on that. We’ve got some really good pitching coaches both in Vancouver and down here in Dunedin. They’re always there to talk to you and work with about certain things and certain situations. I think that part of the game has definitely improved.”

Vancouver Canadians Riley Adams

Riley Adams was one of three Canadians players to be named to the Northwest League All-Star squad in 2017.

Pre-Game Routine

Adams runs down the type of preparation he goes through when he gets the start behind the plate.

“Every single day, we get a report on the players we’re facing. Their splits, how they bat off righties and lefties. See how aggressive they are, how much they swing at a first pitch, whether they’re power hitters or speed guys.

Then we’ll meet with the starting pitcher that day and kind of go through a little game plan of what they want to work on, certain things they’re going to try and do, certain hitters we need to work around or certain guys you need to be careful of. Especially on the basepaths, which guys are the runners. You just meet with the pitcher before and kind of work through all those little things and get a good game plan ready. Just pretty much go out on the field and warm up and get ready to go and hopefully that game plan works.

Obviously, not all game plans are perfect and you might have to make changes throughout the game. Baseball is a game of adjustments. You’re always constantly talking with the pitchers. You’re talking about different situations and pitches and counts and certain things like that. You’re always constantly evolving and adjusting on the fly.”

“Pitch to pitch, you’re figuring out things as it goes. The type of swing he takes, the type of foul ball he hits, what pitch he takes, things like that. There’s always those little things you got to pay attention to.”

Vancouver Canadians Riley Adams

Riley Adams has reached the 75-start milestone behind the plate in his young professional career.

Playing in Dunedin

There was a school of thought that Adams was going to begin 2018 with the Lansing Lugnuts. However, the Jays brass felt Adams could handle the jump over the Midwest League to the Florida State and Adams says he was happy for the vote of confidence.

“It’s always good when you go up to higher levels you know. You always want to push yourself and challenge yourself against the better competition. When they told me I was going to Dunedin, it was pretty exciting. I had a feeling I was going to either here or Lansing. I was going to be happy with either one. To get to go to Dunedin was pretty cool.”

Adams says the one big adjustment to playing in Dunedin is the weather.

“The weather is a lot different than California, that’s for sure. They got a lot of humidity out here. It’s definitely a little different, a lot of adjustments. You kind of get used to it here and there. It’s started to heat up recently so we’re adjusting as it goes. It hasn’t been too bad so far.”

April was a tough month with the bat in Adams but the arrow has been pointing up since then.

“I think in April, I was trying to do too much and letting the pitching get the best of me. I really just tried to simplify everything and allow myself to see the ball better and just make better contact. Just tried to simply things recently to give myself the best opportunity. “

Even though Adams has a black belt in karate, that didn’t seem to matter during a May 29 game against the Florida Fire Frogs in which he was plunked twice by different pitchers. Fortunately for Jeremy Walker and Jon Kennedy, Adams didn’t take it personally.

“It was a little rainy, a little slippery I think. The two pitches just kind of missed. One of them was a first pitch. A lot of teams pitch me in, that’s where guys like to attack me and it’s one of my weaker zones. I know that going into it. Sometimes you get a little too aggressive and tend to miss in. I think the second time I got hit was with two strikes . Anytime you get a two-strike hit-by-pitch, it’s a good one.”

On a final note, Adams says daily improvement is his main goal for 2018.

“I’m just trying to get a little bit better everyday. Get better with catching, receiving, kind of getting it all dialed in. Calling games and getting to know all these pitchers. On the hitting side, just working on seeing the ball better and getting a good swing off when I want to. I don’t think there’s like any specific main goals but just trying to get a little bit better every day.”

Adams’ steady improvement in 2018 has been recognized as he has been named a Florida State League All-Star. He will join 2015 C’s lefthander Angel Perdomo and 2015-2017 southpaw Travis Bergen on the North Division All-Stars roster. 2017 C’s infielder Deiferson Barreto will also be on the coaching staff for the North Division for the All-Star Game in Tampa June 16.

My thanks again to Riley Adams for framing all the questions that came his way in this installment of C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @RileyAdams. A special thanks again to Dunedin Blue Jays media relations coordinator Daniel Venn. His Twitter handle is @GalapagosDan.

To learn more about Adams, check out this story as well.

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C’s Rewind – 2017 Vancouver Canadians Media Day with Manager Rich Miller

Vancouver Canadians Rich Miller

Rich Miller led the Vancouver Canadians to Northwest League championships in 2011 and 2017 in his two seasons as manager.


Vancouver Canadians, C's RewindThe 2018 season for the Vancouver Canadians is just days away and the unofficial start is marked with the team’s annual Media Day at Nat Bailey Stadium.

Last year’s media day was held on the morning of Monday, June 12, the same day the 2017 Major League draft began. Manager Rich Miller held court with the media that day to talk about the upcoming season. He said the late start to the draft would mean a fair bit of roster changes to begin the year.

“This group. It’s going to be the same thing for every team in the league. They’re not going to start the year with any drafted players because the draft is so late. You’re really for two months know exactly what you’re going to start with because they were down in extended spring training. I think our staff knows them very well, having them for two months and the staff knows us and what we expect out of them.

They’ve worked really hard. Every manager is going to say that but I don’t believe in BS’ing anybody. I try to be upfront. This group worked really hard. We had a very warm last three weeks in Florida, very warm, very humid. To come out every morning, they’re up at 6 o’clock in the morning and play games at 10, 11 or 12 o’clock in stifling heat. These guys really worked hard.

The pitching is improved. You’re only going to be as good as your pitching. I truly believe that. You got to have pitching and defence. I’m pleased with the defence. Pitching-wise, we’re going to see. When they get in front of 6,000 people, it’s going to be different because a lot of them Dominican kids have never played in front of fans before in a stadium. They may have been in the Gulf Coast League in which you might get someone’s family come into town but they don’t charge any admission. There’s hardly anybody there.

If they pitched in Bluefield last year, there might be three, four, five-hundred people but to come here with these 6,000 people. I’ve told them all because I was here in 2011. You could be losing 9-0 in the ninth inning. These people are still cheering for you. They love coming out and they love the atmosphere of baseball here in Vancouver. They’re going to appreciate that.

You could be in front of 40,000 (people) in Toronto or 6,000 here (in Vancouver). We’ll find out who’s really mastering under the heat, so to speak, of the fans.”

Miller then reflected on his previous time with Vancouver in 2011, which resulted in the team’s first Northwest League championship.

“I was fortunate when I came here in ’11, I had to fill in the last month of the season and I didn’t realize there was a split season. I didn’t realize they had a wild card team. Long story short, we were fortunate enough to win that year. I know some of the cities that we’re going to go to on the road. I haven’t been to all of them yet but there’s also two staff members here. We do have a new third guy but we have two staff members in Jim Czajkowski and Dave Pano who were here for three of the championships. They do a tremendous job, a tremendous job so familiarity is really good.

A player like (Mattingly) Romanin. The Canadian kid who were talking about, who was here last year. You’ve got some of these players that were here last year. It’s going to help these guys. What’s it like with the host families, what’s it like getting on the bus when you’re going 10, 12 hours to Boise. You need that experience. Even though they’re young guys, you have some veteran guys and we have some good ones.”

When asked about which players to watch for last season, he began with the man who patrolled center field.

“I love (Reggie) Pruitt in center field. I think he probably questioned whether he was going to come here or not during extended (spring training). There was a point where he wasn’t handling his at-bats. I think he was putting pressure on himself. We didn’t post a roster until I think Wednesday of this past week. It went up late. They were all like ‘Where am I going?’ He didn’t want to go back to Bluefield.

The one thing if you watch Reggie and I’m going to tell him, I say ‘Reggie, you could start the year out oh-for-50, you’re going to play center field.’ He can flat out play center field. He can flat out play center field. I appreciate again the pitching and defence, he’s a real good center fielder.

I don’t know who’s going to go up or who’s going to go down once we get drafted players in. Romanin, the kid I talked about, because he was here last year. He had a really good extended. He really started to hit the ball well. You’ll see him at third, you’ll see him maybe at first, some second, you’ll see him DH, maybe some outfield. He might be your good utility player.

Pitching-wise, a lot of it is going to be up to Jim Czajkowski to handle that pitching staff. I think they all, in my mind, improved from the beginning to the end of extended.  As long as we have strike throwers, I want strike throwers. You walk people, it’s going to hurt. You throw strikes, our guys are going to make some defensive plays and we’ll be just as competitive as any team in the league.”

Among the differences between 2011 and 2017 Miller noticed was the renovation made to Nat Bailey Stadium for 2015 and the new grass installed just before last season.

“You look at it and it doesn’t look like it’s real deep. Sometimes the high walls make it appear to you like it’s a small ball park but it’s not really. There’s not a whole lot of home run hit here unless you go down the lines. With the added bullpen from two years ago, that’s made left field somewhat shorter but we’re going to find out about the infield, number one, because it’s a brand new infield. (The grounds crew) completely redid the whole infield, the dirt and the grass surface because it was not very good. If that plays very well, it’s going to help the whole league, even the visiting teams.

We’ll see how the outfield goes. It’s a different grass than Florida. I’m from Pennsylvania in the northeast and northern grass is so much different than Florida grass. It’s a lot thicker and should be a lot slower depending on how you mow it or whatever, that’s going to come into play. It’s fortunate that we’re going to get a quick three days here of workouts and then we go on the road. Eugene is a multi-surface so it’s completely different. You don’t play on a lot of those in the minor leagues and then come back here. It looks nice so hopefully it plays nice.”

Vancouver Canadians Rich Miller

Rich Miller was named the 201 Northwest League Manager of the Year after leading the C’s to its fourth championship in seven seasons.


It was quite obvious to everyone in the press scrum at this point that Miller was enthusiastic about the upcoming season. He hoped his enthusiasm would be contagious to his players.

“I hope so. We have meetings in the spring and every morning, we’ll meet with the players, 8:30, quarter-to-nine, before they go on the field. We’ll go over the day before, we’ll go over the schedule and all the coaches that are in Florida. All three teams get a chance to say things. One thing that I’ve told them is, I am, we are, looking for players who love it, not like it. You might play for a while and you like coming out here. You like being on your own, you like your teammates but to survive and to get to the big leagues, you have to love the game.

This is my 45th pro season. The reason I love it is because of the players because every year, you’re working with different players. They may teach you something coming from a high school or college program. Again, (Dave Pano), Cy (Jim Czajkowski) and our new coach Jose Mayorga, who’s especially going to help us with our Latin players. We’ve all, I think, got enthusiasm. We all love the game.

Every sport is hard to play, you know. We’re just watching the NHL and the hockey finals and everything. Every sport is difficult but baseball, it’s six, seven days a week. Especially for a position player, if your guy plays a lot, it’s hard to come out and try to hit a baseball every night. You got to forget your bad at-bats, go in the outfield, the infield, play defence or whatever but this is such a demanding sport because of all the games that are played.

Football, it’s one game a week. You practice up the one game. Basketball, maybe three games a week. Hockey, maybe three or whatever. This is a demanding sport. They have to love it. If they don’t love it, it’s going to come into their play and we’re going to notice it.”

The main goals for Miller were to see all of his players get better this season and bring home another Northwest League championship to Vancouver.

“From an organizational standpoint, hopefully each player is better at the end of the year than they were at the start. We all want to win. It was nice. What a great marriage. We came here in 2011 and they won the first three years. The gig that I had, having to fill in that last month in 2011 and find out that ‘Geez, they play a split season in a short season league? Oh! There’s a wildcard?’

And I still remember we were coming back from Boise, the last day of the season. I think we stopped in Yakima to get something to eat and one of our pitcher’s dad was listening to, I think, Eugene’s game on the radio. We found out Eugene won the second half so they won both halves so the best second-place team, it ended up being us. I’m not a wild card person. I hated it for years but now all of a sudden we’re a wild card, we got in the playoffs and we won a championship so I was fortunate to, hopefully I thought I helped a little bit, but really the players that were here from the start, we had a great run.

I do remember a team meeting we had before we played the first game of the playoffs and I was fortunate to get a World Series ring with the Mets in 1986. I was managing in the minor league system and I had it with me. I let every player look at it and I told them about how lucky I was to get this but minor league rings are just as hard to come by. They really are and so, don’t lose that focus. This might be your only chance and fortunately enough, they were able to get one there.”

I’m looking for us to be much better than last year’s team, record-wise. I know they weren’t very good. I just want us to play hard. I really want them to play hard. I think these fans are going to see that guys are going to run a ball out. He doesn’t run the ball out, he’s sitting on the bench. That’s what we demand. Our pitchers are going to throw strikes and hopefully we get better as the year goes on.”

Pitching-wise, Miller shared his thoughts on what he would like to see.

“Whew. It keeps changing because we’ve lost a couple of people that were supposed to come with us to our Lansing team already. We’ve had some changes already in the organization. I’m trying to think of the rotation because I don’t want to slight anybody. We’re going to have a Latin contingent. We’re going to have some guys that have not  again, played in front of an atmosphere like that. I’m glad we have Jose Mayorga, our coach, because we didn’t have that in the past where it’s an extra coach. I told him again today, ‘You’re responsible for these Latin players.’ He’s played professionally, he’s been in another organization which I think is good. You know what we expect as Blue Jays and you should know what to expect as being a Latin player or a Latin pitcher. It’s all a transition. Playing in the States, playing in Canada, whatever it is.

I’m probably not going to get into specifics with pitching but I know again, you’re going to hear me say, ‘I want strike throwers. Don’t be afraid to throw the ball down the middle of the plate if you’re behind in the count.’ Hitters can get themselves out. We’re going to make some plays for you.”

Miller was asked about his memories of the 2011 Northwest League final.

“I can remember pretty much the lineup from the championship game because we had Andy Burns at third, who’s now playing I think in Korea, and got to the big leagues last year with the Blue Jays. Shane Opitz played short and he’s in Triple-A in Buffalo. Jon Berti, who’s in Florida now rehabbing. Could possibly have been in the big leagues this year if he had not gotten a concussion in spring training. Berti was in big league camp, did very well. First baseman was (Kevin) Patterson, who’s not in the game anymore. Our DH was Balbino Fuenmayor who had a great playoff series. Behind the plate, we had Chris Schaeffer who’s one of our coaches in Lansing. Pierce Rankin caught the championship game.

In the outfield, I know in center field, we had Kevin Pillar. Bluefield was in the playoffs. They got knocked out of the playoffs after we had played one playoff game so he got sent here along with Aaron Sanchez and they were able to play for us in the playoffs. We put Pillar in Game 2 of the playoffs right in center field hitting second. We had Aaron Sanchez for, I think, a game against Tri-City and pitched almost five good innings for us. Right field, it was Nick Baligod. Yep, there’s some of them still in the game and you think about big leaguers, there was Aaron Sanchez and Kevin Pillar so you couldn’t have asked for better there.”

Miller was then asked about the late start to the 2017 draft.

“I wish I knew why it’s so late, number one. I’ve been asking people. Every organization is in baseball is going to be in this boat. These players are going to be signed so late. The thing about it is, when I got drafted in 1973 and I was done playing college ball in early May, I played in two men’s leagues and I was playing five games a week up until the draft.

I think a lot of drafted players now, I don’t think they play when their season is done. It could be late April or early May from high school to college. I think advisors or agents are telling them not to play, afraid (they’ll) get hurt or whatever but they don’t play. So now you draft them in June. ‘When’s the last time you pitched? Ummm, May 10th. When’s the last time you played a game? Ummm, May 9th.’ They just haven’t played so it takes so long to get in game shape.

The nice thing is you can have a 35-man roster here and you can put 30 on the lineup card every night. You need a lot of pitchers because they’re not going to be going five, six, seven innings for the most part so you’re going to have a lot of relief work. It’s going to affect every team and that’s the biggest thing we got to find out is when did you play last? If you played May 10th, when’s the last time you threw a side? They may have thrown a bullpen the next day or something, I don’t know but it’s going to affect everybody. We’re all in the same boat.”

Miller would lead the C’s to their first-ever first-half division title when they held off the Tri-City Dust Devils for the North Division pennant. After a league-best regular season record of 43-33, the Canadians would go on to sweep the Spokane Indians in the North Division final before defeating the Eugene Emeralds three-games-to-one for the 2017 Northwest League championship. For that, Miller was named the league’s Manager of the Year.

Unfortunately, that was not enough for the Toronto Blue Jays brass as Miller would be let go just days after winning the Northwest League title. At last word, Miller is back home in Pennsylvania and is still involved in the game by managing a team of 10 year-olds.

On a personal note, I was glad to discover I still had the audio of last year’s press conference. He was very cordial with the media and I remember being more excited for the season to start after the scrum.

You can call this a personal tribute of sorts to Rich Miller and I wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

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